April 8, 2016
Inside this issue

As we pass the midway point of the 2016 Legislative Session, we are pleased to report that several of the Chamber's Public Policy Priorities have received favorable treatment at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The following is a brief summary of activity from the last two weeks.



  Governor Fallin Signs Key Legislation Prohibiting Guns at High-Economic Impact Events  

Last year, Gov. Fallin vetoed legislation that would have had a potentially devastating impact on a number of major events in Oklahoma. SB 41 would have allowed the open or concealed carrying of guns into events such as the NCAA Women's College World Series, concerts at Chesapeake Arena, Horse Shows at the State Fairgrounds and many other high-economic impact events-many of which are required by contract to prohibit weapons. Because the Governor's veto was subject to being overridden this year by the Legislature, the Chamber worked with a number of stakeholders (including NRA, OK2A, Oklahoma City All Sports Association, State Fairgrounds, NCAA and Big XII) to pursue legislation to protect the interests of all parties.

The product of these negotiations-SB 1057, by Sen. Jack Fry (R-Midwest City) and Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City)-was signed into law by Gov. Fallin on April 7, after SB 1057 received strong majorities in both the Senate and House.

SB 1057 responsibly broadens gun rights in parks, recreational areas and fairgrounds except during the period when a number of events are taking place. The legislation also provides significant protection for gun owners-before they can be cited with a fine or charged with a misdemeanor for having a gun at a prohibited event, the gun-owner will be given, without penalty, an opportunity to remove the weapon from the event. The legislation also provides protection for event hosts by giving them immunity from liability for damages resulting from guns at events, and also protects employers who allow employees to carry guns.

The Chamber would like to thank Gov. Fallin and the legislature for their strong support of SB 1057, and the above stakeholders and partners who worked diligently to achieve passage of this legislation.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.



  In a Victory for Economic Development and Private Property Rights, Governor Fallin Signs Legislation Improving the Municipal Board of Adjustment Appeals Process  

Individuals outside of real estate and property development may be unfamiliar with an important municipal body: the Board of Adjustment. However, the BOA plays a critical role in determining the future use and development of real estate. Under existing law, after a municipal BOA makes a decision approving development, virtually anyone can initiate a lengthy and costly appeal to the state district court. The mere filing of an appeal automatically stays BOA's decision until the matter is resolved in court, resulting in long delays of significant projects and the jobs that would result from property development.

The Chamber requested legislation-SB 1341 by Sen. Greg Treat (R-OKC) and Rep. Jon Echols (R-OKC) -to address the delay and expense of defending against meritless challenges by those with no property interest in the outcome. Because the status quo was untenable, as it discouraged real estate development and investment and served to interfere with fundamental private property rights, SB 1341 provides that only a person whose direct property interests may be affected by a BOA's decision may appeal that decision to the state district court. In addition, should the district court judge approve a stay, the party seeking the stay will be required to post a bond to compensate for the cost of delay should that party be unsuccessful.

On April 5, Gov. Fallin signed SB 1341 into law after the measure was unanimously approved by the full House and Senate. The Chamber would like to thank Gov. Fallin and members of the legislature for their strong support.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.



  Six Key Criminal Justice Reform Measures Advance in Senate Committee  

The Chamber is engaged in efforts to advance meaningful criminal justice reform legislation at the State Capitol. We believe enacting these reforms will ease the financial drain on Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, lessen the burden on jails and prisons throughout the state and allow non-violent offenders to enter the workforce more quickly.

Six key criminal justice reform measures, all supported by the Chamber, were advanced by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on April 6. Here is a brief synopsis of these measures:

The following bills by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa) and Senators Greg Treat (R-OKC) and Wayne Shaw (R-Grove), which were recommended by Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Taskforce, would make important reforms as to whom would be subject to incarceration:

  • HB 2472 would give DAs discretion in filing misdemeanor charges for some crimes.
  • HB 2479 would remove mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug possession crimes.
  • HB 2751 would re-classify certain property crimes as misdemeanors.
  • HB 2753 would allow judges to sentence certain offenders to community service.

And, two measures by Speaker Jeff Hickman would enact additional reforms: 

  • HB 3159 provides that once a person has served 85 percent of the sentence imposed, the person shall be placed on the first available parole docket of the Pardon and Parole Board immediately following the date upon which the person has served the required term of imprisonment.
  • HB 3160 requires any person currently serving a prison term in the Department of Corrections, or is sentenced for a crime, to have the cumulative sum of all court costs and fees reduced by .75 percent every 30 days of time served on the prison sentence.

Each of these measures will now be considered by the full Senate.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.



  Chamber Leadership Meets with Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Sparks and Senate Democrats  

The Chamber schedules Government Relations Roundtable meetings each year with the leadership of the Senate and House as well as the Governor. These meetings are designed to foster constructive dialogue on the chamber's legislative agenda. This year, topics of discussion include: protecting economic development incentives, state budget/transportation, criminal justice reform, EOY assessments/ACT tests and guns/events legislation.

Several members of the Chamber's executive committee recently met with Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Sparks (D-Norman) and the following members of the Senate Democratic Caucus: Senate Assistant Democratic Floor Leader Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) and Senator J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso). We would like to thank Leader Sparks and the senators for attending.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.